Dr Lucica Ditiu
Executive Director, STOP TB Partnership
With almost one third of the world carrying the latent tuberculosis infection, education, awareness, access and research are vital to eradicate the planet’s deadliest infectious disease once and for all.
Latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is the name for the stage when tuberculosis (TB) bacteria have entered the body, but are lying dormant without causing any symptoms. If they start growing, LTBI will turn into active TB, the world’s deadliest infectious disease, and one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.
Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the STOP TB Partnership, says LTBI is a real danger. “The biggest concern is the scale. A huge number of people are infected globally and, although latent TB is a dormant infection, it has the potential to become active. The biggest threat lies in the fact the numbers we are talking about are so big.”
Testing is difficult and some countries do not feel the cost is justifiable
Around 10% of people with LTBI will develop active TB during their lifetime. However, for some people, including under-fives and HIV patients or other immune-suppressed groups, the risk is much higher.
However, current testing tools are the best ever available but still challenging to use, requiring blood samples. Rather than a typical, point-of-care testing as saliva or urine samples. On top of this, some country programmes are reluctant to spend money on treating latent infection that has no symptoms and does not represent a public health threat.
Due to a collective push coordinated by Stop TB partnership, the first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018 saw member states agree that 30 million people should be able to access TB preventive treatment by 2022. Private sector partners have now also joined the fight against TB.